Custom short scale conversion necks for Strat

Painting? Routing? Set-up tips? Or just straight-up making a guitar from scratch? Post here, and post pics!

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bobnagy
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Custom short scale conversion necks for Strat

Post: # 1407334Post bobnagy »

Pictures of the body in progress.
Warmoth walnut body, bathtub pickup rout, Evertune bridge rout, tru-oil finish being applied.

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Nick
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Post: # 1407340Post Nick »

Looks good, I wouldn't have guessed the Evertune needed such an extreme route - that thin part of the top between the bridge and pickup cavity would scare me a bit although I know it's probably solid.
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Post: # 1407341Post Bacchus »

I thought that too, but I suppose it's not much less stable than a standard strat tremolo route with a swimming pool pickup route.
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bobnagy
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Custom short scale conversion necks for Strat

Post: # 1409085Post bobnagy »

Yes, the Evertune bridge requires substantial wood removal. However, in my opinion, it's well worth doing. I cannot speak highly enough about the Evertune. It's life changing.

This short scale project has now been completed, and the real fun of playing it a lot now begins !

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Above is a picture of the completed guitar.

Walnut body from Warmoth.
Custom short scale neck, mahogany core wood, ebony fingerboard. Created by Allied Lutherie in Vermont, whom I highly recommend.
Evertune routing and all assembly work and finish, by Justin Kennedy in Cincinnati, whom I also very highly recommend.
Fender branded safety post style tuners, which are actually made by Ping Works, and which are utter and total rubbish, and thus I highly do NOT recommend.
These have since been replaced by locking tuners by HipShot, which so far seem to be great.
I originally wanted safety post tuners, since I love their clean look, and most importantly I want an easy way to remove and reinstall the same string set, for example when changing pickguards.
I am hoping that doing this with the HipShot tuners will be easy, but I have not tried it yet.
Set of Ultrasonic pickups, a throwback to the 1980s. Great sounding pickups, very flat, low output, but not made any more.
Custom pickup wiring scheme devised by yours truly. Master volume, master tone, standard 5 way Strat switch, rotary 6PDT switch that changes all three pickups to have their dual windings in series or parallel.
Evertune bridge of course.

The Evertune is not a whammy. They have been working on a whammy version for years, and continue to promise one some day.
I love the Evertune enough, even without being a whammy, that I intend to use nothing else.
However, my need to warble and shimmy remains undeniable, and led me to the following hackoid invention-ette.

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I inserted some small allen wrenches into the ferules of the first three strings (the thicker strings would not allow this).
(Note that the strings are all loose in this photo.)
I used some pieces of a rubber band from a celery bunch to keep these allen wrenches from crossing.
This allows a small amount of pitch warp, in a similar way to grabbing a Strat trem plate (sans bar) and rocking it. No dive bombs, but better than nothing.
This can at least pacify me a bit until Evertune changes the world with a trem that stays in tune for the life of the strings.

As an example of how cool the Evertune is, consider this scenario.
Guitar is strung up and tuned to pitch.
I decide to change pickguards.
So I loosen and remove the strings from the tuners, but leave the strings in the bridge.
I swap the pickguard as desired.
I replace the same strings back onto the tuners.
At this point, the magic happens. I do NOT need to retune anything.
I simply start tightening the tuners.
As the string pitch rises, the Evertune mechanism begins to kick in.
The string pitch rises until it's back in perfect tune again, at which point the pitch stops increasing and I thus simply stop tightening the tuners.
No need to check tuning with a tuner. It's perfectly in tune.

My current adventure is of course playing this guitar a lot and getting used to it.
It's fantastic, and it's a ton of fun to play.
Once I feel completely comfortable with all of the new ideas embodied in this guitar, ensuring that everything is good and groovy, my next adventure will be to make another one.
This next one will use different woods, and likely humbuckers instead of Strat-sized pickups.

For any like minded short scale folks, this short neck has been a complete success.
Luthier Justin Kennedy also confirmed that the body of this guitar could have a standard neck placed on it, and with minor adjustment to ensure proper intonation, it would be just fine.
That was the whole purpose of doing this - to create a short scale neck that could bolt onto a standard Strat body, without requiring any hackery to bridge placement, neck pocket, neck heel, etc.
Surely constructing a custom neck is not a cheap fix, but it achieved a completely excellent result, exactly what I was trying to do.

More news as it comes.

Cheers

Bob
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NickS
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Post: # 1409088Post NickS »

Just - wow!
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Thom
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Post: # 1409090Post Thom »

Congratulations, well done on achieving your goal. Sounds like a great outcome. Look forward to hearing more about how it plays.
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Post: # 1409124Post Bacchus »

Looks great! I'm intrigued by the ultrasonic pickups....

The whole thing reminds me of a project strat I did a few years back. Yours is like the little brother to mine, but where the parents obviously had more of an idea about what they were doing with the second child so it comes out better presented and more successful!

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Nick
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Post: # 1409126Post Nick »

Looks great, the shorter/wider dimensions of a Strat body compared to a Mustang or Jaguar, make it look even shorter. That switching sounds like it'd be really handy.



The Evertune sounds like a amazing bit of engineering, but the aesthetics, irreversible modification required and the lack of vibrato function are just not for me.
bobnagy
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Custom short scale conversion necks for Strat

Post: # 1409182Post bobnagy »

>>> I'm intrigued by the ultrasonic pickups

I first heard about them when I was at GIT in the late 80s. Some of the instructors there were using them. I also think Tom Anderson used them in some guitars, and other well known brands also did.

http://ibanez.fandom.com/wiki/Ultrasonic_pickups

They were known to have a flat frequency response. The purpose of this was to allow you to shape it as you wish, without being locked into any particular sound character built in to the pickup. I have been using them since then, and they have a clean clear sound like nothing else I've played. They also crank up real nice when necessary.

>>> the shorter/wider dimensions of a Strat body compared to a Mustang or Jaguar, make it look even shorter

I've been looking at short scale Strats for so long, that standard scale necks look too long to me !

>>> That switching sounds like it'd be really handy

A pickup that has two coils and four wires can be connected with these two coils in either series or parallel, and it will be humbucking in either configuration. In series, you get more high end roll off and more power, good for melodies and solos, and overdrive. With the coils in parallel, you get less power and more highs, good for chording. I added the 6PDT switch to change all three pickups at the same time, to either series or parallel. Together with the standard 5 way switch, this gives me 10 distinctly different sounds, in an easy to use manner.

>>> The Evertune sounds like a amazing bit of engineering, but the aesthetics, irreversible modification required and the lack of vibrato function are just not for me

My unsolicited free advice is to not judge the book before you've played it.

I too was rather concerned about the lack of vibrato ability, being a Strat player since 1982. But the allure of being always in tune was too powerful to ignore (and being a Strat player, well, the concept of being in tune was something always on my mind shall we say). I drove two hours to the nearest music store that had an Evertune equipped guitar in stock, just to be able to play one and see how it felt. I did not intend to buy that guitar. It was an ESP, and it played very well, but I like Strats and of course short scale necks. So I drove 4 hours round trip just to play that guitar to evaluate the Evertune. I was immediately hooked within minutes as I started to play it.

Even beyond the lack of a vibrato bar, I was also concerned about how finger vibrato, string bending, etc. would work on an Evertune guitar. And I also found out that all such left hand embellishments survive intact, and there is no necessity to change how you play at all.

If you don't like the way the Evertune looks, OK, I cannot argue against anyone's personal preference. If you are concerned about hacking up a vintage or beloved instrument to carve a huge hole into it, I surely understand. In that case, buy a Warmoth body, and there is no risk to your old faithful guitar.

But I highly recommend that you at least play an Evertune guitar before you decide it's not for you. Sure, I'd love to have a whammy Evertune, and there are many other people who feel the same. But even without a whammy bar, those stupid looking allen wrenches give me a little shimmer ability, enough to make me smile. It's really difficult to explain how life changing it is to have a guitar that stays in tune, all day, every day, day after day, until you experience it for yourself. I've spent a lot of time tuning recorded tracks, with AutoTune and also manually the hard way in the pre AutoTune days. All of that has made my ears very sensitive to pitch, and thus guitar tuning is very important to me. Who was it that said the guitar is the only instrument where the player spends half of his time tuning it, and the other half playing out of tune. Yeah, well, not any more. Thanks Evertune !

Try it, you'll like it !
bobnagy
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Custom short scale conversion necks for Strat

Post: # 1409307Post bobnagy »

Over the months of time that this post has been up on this board, this place where short scale fans congregate, I have received zero replies from anybody interested in doing what I have done. That's all fine of course. For some (many, most) of us, the 25.5 inch scale is fine. For others, 24.75 or 24 inches is great. There is no single correct answer, and there is no one size fits all scenario here. However, if you're like me, perhaps you don't know what you don't know. You may not know what size truly fits you best. You may not even know that other sizes are possible.

I have been playing guitar since August 1969. I was a young boy at that time, and I seriously doubt that any short scale "real" instrument existed back then. If so, I surely didn't know about it, and of course I didn't even know what scale length was. I simply played the guitar I was given, which was some "standard" scale length instrument, and not a beginner's or child's guitar. Of course, at that young age, the instrument felt huge in my hands. Learning to play the first fret F major bar chord (across all six strings) is something I can still vividly remember, including the left hand pain that accompanied that endeavor.

Ok, it's the hands of a child trying to span the largest frets on the neck. It's also a beginner, who has never done this before. So that first experience and its difficulties seem understandable, and most likely happened to every one of us. But even as I grew into adulthood, the feeling of the size of the neck, the difficulty in grabbing big chords down low, or stretchy chords anywhere, and left hand discomfort, has never left me. I just accepted it as normal.

My first serious guitar was a Gibson Les Paul. It's 24.75 inch scale was certainly playable, and to me seemed normal. But normal is not the same as ideal. I accepted this guitar's dimensions as normal simply because it was all I knew. I still knew nothing about scale length, nor had I ever seen any guitar beyond normal dimensions.

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Above is a picture of me, at about 16 years of age, playing an Aria Les Paul clone given to me by my dad (which preceded the Gibson). To me now, the neck on this guitar looks like a friggin giraffe.

Some years later, the call of the whammy was too insistent to ignore any longer, and I bought a Strat. I still didn't know about scale length, so I didn't even realize that I was going in the "wrong direction" as regards scale length and what is really ideal for my preferences. I was just happy to be able to embellish my playing with whammy action. I also became an instant fan of 3 pickups instead of 2, and the general shape and comfort of the Strat body. Thanks Leo !

But of course now I was in 25.5 inch territory, and if anything it slowly pushed scale length more into my physical awareness, although I still didn't know anything about it yet.

Some years again later, I bought a Peavey Adrian Vandenberg model. It's 24.75 inch scale length immediately felt much more comfortable in my hands, since by then I had been playing the Strat exclusively for years. In fact, this scale length related comfort is the only reason I bought the Peavey. It was a fine guitar, but it was a 2 pickup axe. It's neck was great, and it played well, but it was not the right guitar for me, overall. As a result, I ended up playing it rarely, even though it was easier to play than my Strat.

Vandenberg model

Yet again some more years later, I saw a Baby Taylor, and I thought it was a joke. It looked like a cigar box with strings on it. I picked it up just for a laugh, but as soon as I began to play it, my mind underwent an instant extreme realignment. I now fully understood that scale lengths were "a thing", and that in fact this 22.75 inch scale length was IT for me. Although this little wood box sounded horrible, it played better than anything I had ever played in my life. I sat there for a really long time, and could not put it down. That was the moment that I KNEW I had to have a short scale instrument, a real pro quality instrument, at a 22.75 inch scale length.

That day was 20 years ago. It's been a very long journey to arrive at this point now, finally, with this new short scale Strat that I've built. I had tried other solutions, cobbling together existing parts. I had looked and looked and looked to find something that already existed, but found nothing decent beyond beginner's instruments and travel guitars.

It also took me many years to even realize that alternate scale lengths do exist, and that one of them may be a better fit for my hands and the way I play than the standard sizes. Short scale instruments were, and still are, rarely encountered in the wild, and especially rare to almost nonexistent if you consider only professional quality guitars. I didn't know that short scale lengths existed, I didn't know that I've been wanting a short scale instrument for my entire life, and I didn't even know that I didn't know that. If you know what I mean. I was simply playing what I was given.

If any of this resonates with you, I encourage you to go find something short and give it a try. Don't expect it to be great quality. Don't consider any of the instruments qualities except for the scale length. Just see how it feels in your hands. How it affects how you play. How comfortable it feels to grab the chords you normally do. How easily and quickly you can move around the fretboard. See if it works for you. Try it. It may do for you what it has done for me, reveal to you something you may have been searching for but didn't know existed.

This new short scale Strat is without any doubt the best feeling guitar I have ever played in my life. Playing is so much more easy and fun. The left hand stress is very much reduced. All of this immediately and directly translates into better music. I can play this guitar for hours without any fatigue.

Of course, everybody is different. Maybe your hands are larger, and scales this short feel too tight for you. But if you never try it, you may never know. I can say without a doubt that a short scale instrument has changed my life. It has made playing more fun, which makes me want to play even more. It has reduced physical effort, which makes it easier to play better. It has improved my mood, which makes my music better. Saying it has been life changing is not an exaggeration.

As I have mentioned early in this thread, making a real conversion neck for a Strat, or for that matter, any bolt on neck instrument, is possible, and this adventure detailed here has proven that. It's really too bad that Fender and other companies do not do this. Instead of making the various shorter scale Strats, such as the Squire Strat Mini, and others, they could have simply made a neck in the correct dimensions, and bolted it right on to any existing body they already had. But they didn't - they instead created all new body dimensions, and all new neck dimensions to go along with it, which only added to the multiplicity of incompatible pieces and parts out there in Fenderland. And for what ? For one extra fret ? To make a 20 fret neck instead of 19, or a 21 fret neck instead of 20 ? Or to make the guitar "look better" ? Yes, my short neck Strat may look way short to many of you. But it's only because you're used to seeing 25.5 inch necks on a Strat body. Honestly, those look too long to me now. After you look at a short Strat for a while, it starts to look like a new normal.

Anyway, the summary of the above is to try it if you have not, it could change your life. And if you want to make a 24 inch or 22.75 inch Strat conversion neck, please know that it can be done.
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Custom short scale conversion necks for Strat

Post: # 1409685Post bobnagy »

I have posted a YT vid playing this guitar.

There is plenty of string bending and finger vibrato going on, especially in the solo section in the middle, which may be of interest to anybody concerned about how the Evertune bridge handles such left hand acrobatics.
As I mention earlier in this thread, I don't feel any detriment to my playing style due to the Evertune. But see for yourself in the video.

You Tube video
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Thom
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Post: # 1409693Post Thom »

Sounds great, great tone and playing. What are you playing through? I like the Marshall cab stack!
bobnagy
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Custom short scale conversion necks for Strat

Post: # 1409708Post bobnagy »

Thanks for the nice comments.

The equipment recipe for my tone in this video is :
Ultrasonic pickups
"secret weapon" ancient Yamaha PG1 guitar preamp
Marshall 9005 tube power amp
a pair of JBL E120 speakers in the top Marshall speaker cab

The Yahama preamp was the first rack mount guitar preamp I ever saw, and I bought it in the early 1980s. It has a clean sound that's second to none, and has headroom for days, you can't clip its input even if you try. It's crank tone is just bleh, but there is no better clean sound in my opinion than this preamp.

The JBL speakers are also from the 1980s, and I am very sad these are no longer made. They are great, clear and clean.
The sound in this video is only the top Marshall cabinet, and one channel of the Marshall power amp.

The bottom Marshall cabinet contains a pair of old coffee can magnet EV SRO 12s from the 1970s, but is not playing in this video.
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